Arrived at the port at noon, check in was a breeze as we had pre-registered online. Took pics with Mickey in front of a model of the ship, on board by 1pm.
Made our Palo reservations. We couldn't get the day and time we wanted when I tried to do it online, but we got the exact day and time we desired when we made it soon after boarding.
Ate lunch at the buffet at Enchanted Garden.
Made my pedicure appointment (same experience as our Palo resv)
Changed into swim suits from our carry-on and the kids went on the Aqua Duck.
Suitcases were outside our cabin doors by 3pm.
Safety muster was at 4pm. We did NOT have to take our life vest. Our meeting location was the Walt Disney Theater (very nice to be able to sit during the safety briefing!). Don't get there more than a few minutes early as you'll just have to wait, but don't get there late either as there won't be any seating left.
Get a deck map for each member of your party from Guest Services.
Very first thing--see if your wave phones need to be charged. There are 2 wave phones per cabin for use on board the ship and at Castaway Cay, but there is only 1 charger. The only drawback is they are large, they only vibrate (no audible ring), and they don't always work.
Coffee table is actually a trunk. Great for storing kid's shoes.
Bring a hanging toiletry bag as there is not a whole lot of storage space in the bathroom.
Bathroom has 2 retractable clothes lines, very handy.
There is a lighted clock/docking station for I Pods and I Phones (but not I Phone 5).
Hair dryer has a special outlet at the desk.
There are 2 regular kinds of outlets at the desk.
The only outlet in the bathroom is for shavers.
Keep dollar bills handy in a drawer for complimentary room service. $1 to $2 per item ordered. (our boys enjoyed ordering pizza at midnight!)
Navigators (schedule of the following day's events and activities) are delivered to your cabin each evening after dinner. Get an extra copy to keep as souveniers from Guest Services.
If you weren't able to make appointments online before sailing, go to the Spa immediately upon boarding and you will still be able to make appointments on sea days (the most popular appointment days).
Show up to the raffle which is held following the safety muster. You must be present to win so there are a lot of winners compared to the number of people present.
Cardio and weight equipment is very nice. Individual TVs on the cardio equipment.
If you do a spa treatment, they give you a questionnaire to fill out. Do not report any problems or issues--if you do, they have all kinds of products they will try to sell you to "solve" your various skin problems, ect...
When you get your Navigator each night, peruse it quickly for any spa specials that might be advertised for the next day. If you are interested, call the spa immediately and make your appointment--these promotional treatments fill up quickly and although it is advertised for the next day, there will be no treatment rooms left if you wait until the next day to book it.
On a 7 day cruise, there is 1 formal night and 1 semi-formal night. On the formal night, I wore a satin skirt and dressy blouse and my husband wore a sport jacket and tie. On the semi-formal night, I wore a casual skirt and blouse and my husband wore a dress shirt and tie(no jacket). On both nights our young sons wore dockers and polo shirts.
We had breakfast at the Royal Court several times. There is a big variety of menu items and you are waited on just like at dinner. The breakfast buffet at Enchanted Garden is good as well and the waiters bring your beverages to your table and anything else you might need. The breakfast buffet at Cabanas is completely casual (swimsuits and cover ups are ok) but you must fetch all your food, condiments and beverages yourself.
Right before dinner, the area in front of the restaurants are jam packed. Wait until just a few minutes after your dinner hour and you will be able to stroll in and proceed straight to your table.
If you have reservations at Palo or Remy (you pay an extra fee to eat here), you must dress up, even shoes. No T-shirts, jeans, shorts, flip flops.
There is counter service food venues, ice cream machines, and serve yourself beverage stations (including soda) near the pools.
On Board Water Play
If you go on the Aqua Duck during the following times you won't have to wait in line longer than 10 -- 15 minutes: Morning, afternoon on port days, and evenings.
Aqua Lab, the splash play area for pre-schoolers and older is somewhat hidden on deck 12. Make sure your kids check it out as it's a great alternative to the pool and Aqua Duck.
Do not save your deck chair with a ship towel only. Pool attendants constantly collect towels that are left on deck chairs when there is nothing else there (like a bag, cover up or flip flops).
My 2 boys loved the kid's club, Oceaneer Lab. Although there are a multitude of activities available, they mainly stayed near the computer games.
You don't have to wait for an "open house" to stroll through and see what's there. When you go to pick up your child, you are given a "child pick up" badge and you are allowed to walk into the club and find them.
Note--if your child is in a state room with some one other than his/her parents, that adult will have to add you to the list of those allowed to pick up your child--just because you're the parent, you will not automatically be on this list originally, only the adult in your child's cabin will be (in our case, it was their adult brother), he then can add you to the list of those allowed to pick up your child.
The electronic wristband that your child wears does have a way of falling off on occasion. There is a $50 fee if it is lost. They highly recommend that you cut it off and leave it in your cabin when you go ashore. The next time your child goes to the kids club they will re-attach it for you.
My boys loved the Mid Ship Detective Agency game. It's like an interactive scavenger hunt. Register at either of the 2 kiosks and then follow the map and find the interactive art work located throughout the ship to solve the crime. Don't wait until the last day of your cruise to do this as the art work locations will be crowded.
Be sure to leave your child's electronic wrist band at the club on the last night or the last time they attend before disembarking.
There are lots of fun activities scheduled throughout the day on sea days and throughout the evening on port days. The trivia games get redundant after a while. The cooking demonstrations are fun and worthwhile. The 6 big evening shows are absolutely not to be missed. They are Broadway quality productions that the entire family will definitely enjoy. On our cruise, 13 movies rotated through the Buena Vista theater.
Gladly, Disney cruise line does not try to snap your picture every time you turn around. There are professional picture opportunities as you board the ship, before dinner, in the atrium lobby, and with Disney characters at specific times throughout the day. You can also use your own camera at these times and some of my own pictures (in front of their backgrounds) turned out really nice.
Fun places to take pictures include: The castle mosaics, sweeping stair case, bronze Mickey statue and bronze Peter Pan mural in the atrium lobby; the English phone booth, funny chairs and motor cycle with side car in the Europa lounges (which children can go to in the morning, afternoon and early evening); the beautiful mosaics in the restrooms in the Europa hallway, sitting inside a rounded window on deck 3, in front of the "Fresh Catch" photo op scene on Castaway Cay near the tram stop nearest the ship, and as your driving/flying to and from your cruise.
My older son and his cousins, aunt and uncle did the "Campo Rico Ziplining Adventure and Kayak" . They said it was a lot of fun and well worth the cost. Besides ziplining and kayaking, hiking and a chicken lunch was included.
My husband and the younger boys and I walked around San Juan ourselves and went shopping and to San Cristobal fort. The fort is just a few blocks from the ship and well worth the nominal entrance fee. Besides running around and checking out the dungeon, perimeter walls and iguanas that roam around the grassy areas, my young sons enjoyed the film presentation on the history of the fort.
Due to a huge breakfast on board and the anticipation of a huge dinner on board, we only had smoothies and empanadas while in town.
13 of us in our party had booked the "St. John island tour" that included a ferry ride to St. John. After we had checked in for our tour and were waiting in the Walt Disney Theater for our tour to start, we were told that our excursion was cancelled due to "mechanical difficulties". We and about 100 other cruisers immediately went to the shore excursion desk to see about booking another excursion but the only other one available for a party of our size was a dolphin experience which most of us had already done on previous cruises. We opted instead to walk around on our own and our cancelled excursion was credited to our account.
Across the street from the port (Haven Sight Pier, one of 2 piers in St. Thomas) was the Aerial tram ride. It cost about $12 per person (cheaper than buying tickets for it onboard the ship). The view from the top was spectacular and there was a gift shop as well but that was it.
We then waved down an open air bus/jeep ($3 per person) and rode for about 10 minutes to the shopping area of Charlotte Amalie. Tons of shopping and places to eat. To return to the ship, simply wave down another jeep. If you enjoy long walks and don't have small children with you, walking is a nice option as well.
If you have children who swim, get off the ship as early as possible and snag beach chairs in front of the children's ocean play structure. It's in the water (you have to swim a little to get to it) and the kids can climb, jump and swing on ropes. This area is also near the Pelican Plunge water slide that you must also swim out to. Do this as soon as it opens before the lines to the slide get too long.
There are shops and another BBQ area for lunch and a very simple splash play area for kids near the Pelican Plunge.
Don't bother crowding around the shower area to wash your feet until you get to the dock where the ship is. There is a foot washing station there.
Make sure to bring a small suitcase or large tote bag for your overnight items as you must place your suitcases outside your cabin door by 10pm on the last night. You can then claim them at baggage claim as you disembark the next day. This is much easier than hauling them to breakfast (once you leave your cabin you can't go back) through the crowded ship, gang planks, and cruise terminal escalators yourself.
Be sure and leave your Wave phones in the cabin. There is a $200 fee if you accidentally take it with you.
Although our "Welcome Home" disembarkation flier didn't list it, along with the 3 restaurants, Cabanas buffet was open for breakfast on this last morning as well. This was a better option for us as the flier said we'd have to have breakfast at one of the dining rooms at 6:45 am if we had been assigned the early seating for dinner.
We finished eating and headed towards the ship's exit at 9:30am.
You will need your key to the world card as you disembark. This is how they know who has left the ship.
We proceeded through baggage claim and customs very smoothly.
The area in front of the cruise terminal where everyone waits for a ride or off-site shuttle was extremely crowded. If you parked in the parking structure there at the terminal simply walk into it with your entire party and then find a spot there on the first floor to wait while one person goes to get the car.
Handy things to pack
Baby wipes to keep hands clean, esp. while ashore, lots of sunscreen, various size zip locks (comes in handy in a variety of situations), 2 sets of swim suits so you don't have to put on a wet one the next day, over the counter meds (pain reliever, sea sickness, cough and runny nose), small bills for bargaining, copies of the front page of your passport, driver's license, insurance card, credit cards--keep in your cabin safe, put your contact information inside each suitcase as well as on the outside, re-fillable water bottles with attached filter, disposable wire hangers (there are never enough hangers for me), carry on bag with swim suits and sunscreen to use until your suitcases arrive at your cabin on embarkation day, cheap cabin door decorations to help you find your cabin easily (get magnets from the craft store with sticky backing to adhere to the back, Disney does not allow tape on doors. Print out colorful pictures from Google Images to use as door decorations. Don't use anything, like cute picture magnets, that might get stolen), Post it notes or paper to leave notes for your kids and reminders for yourself, pirate night dress up gear (we got swords and eye patches at Party City) your cabin steward will put bandanas in your room before dinner that night, cash for port shopping and shore excursion tips, packaged snacks for shore days (most ports don't allow fresh food to be taken off the ship--each of our sons had their own light weight, draw string back pack with a bottle of water and snacks), water proof watch, If your going to put soda or juice in your re-fillable water bottles to take ashore, bring a small container of dish soap to wash out your water bottles later.
Living in south Florida, we take our children and enjoy about 2 cruises a year. We've cruised on Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian as well as Disney. You most definitely get what you pay for and although Disney is the most expensive, the service and value for your money is well worth it!